We had the good fortune of connecting with Maja Trochimczyk and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Maja, let’s talk legacy – what do you want yours to be?
What a strange question! As if I were getting ready to die and actually have a “legacy” to leave at 64. But, in a way, I have been working on my legacy ever since I started publishing my poetry in 2007 and switched from writing about others, in music history books and peer-reviewed articles, to writing about myself, in my own poems. Once upon a time, I was struck by a line from Sappho quoted by Iannis Xenakis, the musical hero of my youth. This composer of extreme avant-garde created musical works resembling sound sculptures, whirlwinds of tornadoes, or cascading waterfalls. Being immersed in his massive structures, like Persephassa, or Pléïades, both for 6 percussionists, was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I loved this music in live performance so much that I wrote about it in my doctoral dissertation on “Space and Spatialization in Contemporary Music” (McGill University, 1994). This 450-page brick of a book is still cited by music historians and theorists worldwide, and remains among most popular books of my Moonrise Press, along with a collection of essays on a Polish composer Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki. The dissertation is one of the earliest studies of the use of acoustic/physical space by composers and a variety of theories associated with such compositions. I was a pioneer as a musicologist because I loved listening to Xenakis’s music and because I studied sound engineering, focusing on the reality of music, its sound. So that’s a part of my legacy – understanding the complex music worlds of others – Xenakis, later also Witold Lutoslawski, Gorecki, or Messiaen. But the quote that Xenakis cited was about love, written nearly 600 years BC, over 2.5 thousand years ago: “Love, like a mountain-wind upon an oak, falling upon me, shakes me leaf and bough.” This image is as alive today as it was then. “Ars longa, vita brevis” – as they say. It is poetry that survives, so much more than music history, scholarly analyses, philosophical musings, or anything material, except for sculptures carved in stone.

Would I like to be primarily remembered as a poet, then? What kind of a poet? A very human one, a Polish immigrant writing in English, commemorating the suffering and resilience of Poles in WWII and its aftermath, the survival of my extended family that was deported from their homes, that were then in Poland, now in Belarus. My ancestors lost everything except their lives and some photographs. Yet, they “rebuilt” themselves in a different city of a country, that was again ruined by war (“The Rainy Bread”). I am a poet that writes about love, nostalgia, happy childhood, transitions. A poet that collects verse and photos to heal and inspire, first myself, then others. My “Into Light” collection is designed as a set of inspirational musings and “incantations.” One of these poems is the song of my daily meditations, another, “Repeat after me,” is a great dialogue for live poetry readings. A lesson in saying “sorry, forgive me, thank you, love you” as the Hawaiians do in Ho’oponopono.

Right now I’ve completed another collection with poems of joy, entitled “Bright Skies” and dedicated to my three children and their children when they grow up. It is my way of creating order out of chaos, my necklace of beads – favorite moments of delight captured in words. Cooking for Christmas, flying kites, playing with soap bubbles, watching birds’ antics in my garden… If my children do not like these poems, others will. Words – like seeds – spread and germinate, carried by the winds of time. After a long search for my place on Earth, moving from country to country, identity to identity, I finally know who I am, that I AM and always will be – that this life is just a series of tests to pass, lessons to learn. I’ve learned and passed mine; now I’m writing about my experiences to help others pass their own tests.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I recently talked to an 86-year-old friend whose dedication to poetry and hours spent on writing and perfecting her poems were questioned by her husband. He simply could not understand why she would “waste so much time” with her pen and paper. Writing poetry is a mission, not a day job. I am so glad that there are so many poets and that they take the time an effort to share their thoughts, emotions, reflections, and experiences. We are unique in our own ways; we each have something to say that’s worth listening to. It is definitely a good use of my time to perfect my own poems, written down in a moment of sudden revelation, when something I see, hear or feel strikes me and comes to my mind in ready-made lines. Sometimes, I just transcribe what suddenly appears. At other times, I struggle in giving expression to an idea that somehow evades that perfect phrase. But I’m so pleased when what I intend to capture, remains, as “In Morning Light,” one of my all-time favorite poems, recorded by the Engaging the Senses Foundation at the Gathering of California Poets Laureate in 2019.

Here, I’m answering a question about “professional life and career” – and yes, I am a poet and poetry publisher, so it is a hugely important part of my life. But I believe that seeking to make money from poetry may put one in danger of becoming a “blubbering loudmouth” just talking for words’ sake, with noting significant to say. The same with teaching: once you secure that tenured position in creative writing at a prestigious university, you feel obliged to have more and more to say, to reply to those “peers” that will push you in a certain direction, towards certain beliefs and ideologies. Being a small business owner and an activist in community organizations frees me from these constraints. I do not depend on “peer-reviews” of my work to renew my contract with life as a poet. I earn my living as a non-profit director, in a life of true service to others. Remember: we have to reach 51% of Service to Others in our life choices, to make it to the next step.

Despite my involvement with multiple organizations and individuals, I do best as a “hermit” – going for walks alone, flying my kites alone, meditating alone, writing alone. Then, I write from my heart, my deep self, true identity. Do I have a brand? Years ago, I defined myself as a “Catholic mystic” – am I still that? I’m an ESL-type of poet, just like Joseph Conrad – Józef Korzeniowski who mastered the English language as an adult. What is my “brand”? Over years, I have changed my belief systems, discarding those that no longer serve me, trying out new ones to see if they fit. It is fun to grow this way, and to record my evolving story in words. I like revisiting my older poems to check if they are still valid, if they still resonate with me today. Most of them do. I was told I have a voice of an existentialist philosopher and the voice of a lover – though afflicted by abandonment and betrayal since my childhood, I’ve become a poet of connection and warmth. Displaced from my “soil” of land, language, culture – I became a Californian attached to the place I chose as mine on this Earth. Who am I, then? I’ll answer with two quotes from my poems: “a sovereign citizen of the galaxy,” – “today, I’m perfect.”

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.

Let’s see, day trips through the Los Angeles area… First day – the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens, with their own Chinese café in the garden. So much to see inside and outside, with sections dedicated to roses, palms, Australia bush, Japanese bonsai, a camellia grove, and even a Shakespeare garden. There is the Art Gallery and the Library with the Gutenberg Bible, Copernicus’s treatise, paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, and so much more. Definitely worth the admission price, though they destroyed the entrance way by constructing so many new buildings along an exceedingly long way. Growth has its minuses, too. But for another lovely day, there is the beautiful and peaceful Descanso Garden and a lunch in Montrose – so many cafes to chose from in their Honolulu-street district. Just walk along Honolulu, listen to street musicians, and bask in the sun and smiles of passersby of this lovely community. Highly recommended. If you wish and have time afterwards, take a drive down Highway 2, from La Canada back to Sunland, stop to admire the mountains. That was Day 2.

Now, on Day 3, to go to the beach, I have some favorite spots – below Veterans Park in Redondo Beach, a bit too crowded but easy to get to. Straight west from my house, 60 miles away, I find myself on Mandalay Beach in Oxnard, with amazing waves and vast stretches of sand, peppered with washed-out rocks of many colors. There is nothing better than watching sunset light coloring wave after wave of the Pacific, or walking along the shore with your dog. Alas, I have not found a favorite eatery in either place, yet. I do not go out too often, But if I entertain at home, I’m sure to get Sevan Chicken from La Crescenta – I thought it was a special seasoning, the chicken is so good, but no, just salt, fresh chicken and skill… (I do not eat meat, my guests do). I’ll get some Porto’s Cuban pastries and my favorite sourdough with raisins from the Back Door Bakery. I’ll go to Sunland Produce to find some treats, like white cheese (ser bialy or twarog), the “Royal” (Krolewski) sliced yellow cheese, Lithuanian herring, chocolate covered plums, cherries or figs, and Armenian raisin-or-walnut cookies, tasting the best with Sadef black tea or Avant Unoaked Chardonnay, my new favorite white wine.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?

To grow as a poet, I listened to other poets, participated in workshops, and live poetry readings. Before 2007, I only wrote for myself: English is my second language and I never wrote in Polish… Then, I met Kath Abela Wilson, the founder of Poets on Site, and joined the events in art galleries and museums that she organized. It was so much fun to read my own poems with the music of Kath Abela and Rick Wilson, and so much fun to listen to poems by others. She published many collections in chapbook format. I particularly liked the anthology of poems inspired by the art of Hungarian-American painter, Susan Dobay. Both Kath Abela and Susan are my artistic friends and mentors; Susan hosted my first ever photography exhibit and several readings in her Scenic Drive Gallery in Monrovia (by appointment only).

My next support group was Westside Women Writers founded by Millicent Borges Accardi, where I found a poetic home for 10 years; I even edited and published an anthology of our poems, “Grateful Conversations” (2018). Millicent, Kathi Stafford, Lois P Jones, Georgia Jones Davis, Madeleine Butcher, Sonya Sabanac, Susan Rogers and Ambika Talwar – these nine poets are all extremely talented, and I’m blessed to have been able to learn from them and with them. Since 2010, I’m the Program Chair of Village Poets of Sunland Tujunga, organizing monthly readings with Marlene Hitt, Joe DeCenzo, Alice Pero, Dorothy Skiles, Elsa Frausto, and Pamela Shea. Since 2019, thanks to Margaret Saine, a multi-lingual poet and translator, I’ve been involved with the California State Poetry Society, as the organization’s President and Managing Editor of the California Quarterly, our flagship journal. Publishing exquisite poems is our goal and mission, so I’m very happy working along with editors Bory Thach, William Scott Galasso, Maura Harvey, and Konrad Wilk, as well as board members Ambika Talwar, Richard Modiano, John F. Harrell, Terry Ehret, and Richard Deets. This 50-year-old organization does not need to be large to do an excellent job keeping high-quality poetry alive and well.

Finally, I’m grateful to all the volunteer activists of my Polish-American “home” organization, that I’ve led as President for over six years, Helena Modjeska Arts and Culture Club. Established in 1971 in Los Angeles by actor-director-veteran Leonidas Dudarew-Ossetynski, the Club is named after Polish actress Helena Modrzejewska who came to the U.S. in 1876, and became a star of American theater as “Modjeska.” An actress, editor, director, producer, writer, costume designer, gardner, and hostess, she is a model of immigrant success for Polish Americans – greatly contributing to the new country of choice, without forgetting the old country of personal roots and ancestry. I’m grateful to all Polish immigrants who came here before me and established the organizations and communities that I can now continue to build and sustain.

Website: moonrisepress.com

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maja-trochimczyk-2994178/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maja.trochimczyk

Youtube: Moonrise Press

Other: PoetryLaurels.blogspot.com; CaliforniaStatePoetrySociety.com

Image Credits
Maja Trochimczyk and grandson Adam Maja Trochimczyk and Bory Thach Maja Trochimczyk and Cile Borman Ed Rosenthal, Suzanne Lummis, and Maja Trochimczyk Maja Trochimczyk and Margaret Saine Marlene Hitt, Joe DeCenzo, Elsa Frausto, Maja Trochimczyk, and Pamela Shea, Alice Pero, Dorothy Skiles Maja Trochimczyk in Descanso Gardens

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